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Police Officer's Liability for Failure to Warn of Detainee's Known Risk of Suicide

NCJ Number
Jail Suicide/Mental Health Update Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Dated: Spring 1999 Pages: 3-5
Michael D. Robbins; Gregory J. Schlesinger
Date Published
3 pages
This article examines a police officer’s liability for failure to warn of a detainee’s known risk of suicide.
A Gurnee, Illinois, police officer briefly took custody of a pretrial detainee who had attempted suicide 9 hours earlier. The officer had been advised of the suicide attempt and cautioned about the detainee being at continued risk of suicide. In the wake of the detainee’s suicide 2 days later, the officer was found by a jury to have been deliberately indifferent to a serious medical condition by virtue of his failure to disclose the detainee’s suicidal condition to jail officials. An officer’s duty requires that s/he not act with deliberate indifference to a serious risk to an inmate’s health or safety, and s/he may be held accountable if s/he knew or should have known of a serious risk. Actual knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm may be inferred from the obviousness of the risk. For the protection of the inmate and the officer, knowledge of an inmate’s prior suicide attempt, or information that suggests an inmate’s ongoing risk of suicide, must be passed on to other law enforcement authorities. Notes